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Authorities' battle over whale hunting

Posted September. 16, 2017 07:32,   

Updated September. 16, 2017 07:50


A total of 77 types of whales reside in the seas on the planet. Unlike the blue whale and Bowhead whale, which are near extinction, there are over 30,000 fin whales inhabiting in the North Pacific alone. Minke whales reside in most parts of the world, including the East Sea. While commercial whaling was prohibited in 1986, Japan turns a blind eye on illegal whale hunting under the disguise of "research." Japan came under sharp criticism in April this year when a British media outlet reported three whale fishing boats catching 333 whales tried to dock at Shimonoseki port.

In Korea, around 240 Minke whales are consumed every year. In order to become a legal seller of whales, one must receive a license authorized by the Prosecutors' Office, which grants incidental catches. Still, it is estimated that 150 to 160 Minke whales are illegally distributed mainly from Ulsan. A kilogram of Minke whales cost approximately 150,000 won, but the price is much higher for certain parts, which the wealthy can only afford. In April 2016, whale fishers and distributors were prosecuted for illegally poaching 27 tons of 40 Minke whales whose estimated cost at around 4 billion won.

Prosecutors dealing with the case had returned 21 tons of whale meat before DNA results were issued by the Whale Institute at the National Fisheries Research & Development Institute. When converted into market price, the returned meat costs approximately 3 billion won. Ulsan Police Commissioner Hwang Woon-ha, who took office last month, ordered thorough investigation, saying, "The returned meat should have been disposed." While the Prosecutors' Office claimed that they returned the meat under the Criminal Procedure Code, the police said that the return was an "obvious mistake, and should be investigated on whether it was a mistake made by prosecutors or an order from high-ranking officials."

Former head of the Investigation Reform Division at the National Police Agency, Hwang was the first graduate from Korean National Police University and served the chairman of the alumni association. He has actively claimed through social networks that investigation and accusation rights of the police should be guaranteed. Whenever the issue of independent investigation rights rose to the surface in the past, prosecutors used to investigate police executives by leveraging intelligence on their corruption. In the battle of whales, however, the police have the say than prosecutors. Indeed, this reminds us how times and regimes have changed.